New Puppy Series: Your Puppy’s First 5 Training Cues
Did you recently bring home a new puppy? This blog mini-series is for you! In this post, we go over the first five training cues you should teach your new puppy! The new puppy in the pictures is Logic, the newest addition to the Zurborg family!
1. Eye contact
We want to train our dogs to look at our face when we say their name. If your dog is looking at you, there is a greater likelihood that they are listening to you. Eye contact is the foundation to all future training.
A good way to start is to ditch the dog food bowl and feed your puppy by hand during training sessions. Start and end your session with five rewards for looking directly into your eyes. If needed, you can put your puppy on a leash or tie-down to keep them from wandering away. You can even go somewhere super boring, like the bathroom. Be sure to mark the eye contact with a clicker or the word “yes!” before giving the treat.
Out of all of the training cues, “sit” is probably the most basic and commonly used one! Luckily, this is a relatively easy cue to get on command. There are SO many concepts you can use with sit training.
A good way to teach sit is to put your dog on a tie-down. Stand just outside of your dog’s reach on the tie-down. Let your dog know you have delicious food, but don’t keep the food right in his or her face. Put in your pocket, bait pouch, or on a counter. Your dog is probably excited and is now trying to jump on you – just ignore them!
When your dog’s enthusiasm fades, they will accidentally sit as they settle. Right when his or her butt hits the floor, mark that behavior by clicking and treating or saying “yes!” and treating. Release your dog by saying “okay” and encourage your dog out of the sit.
That’s one sit, great! Now walk away for a second and head back towards your dog. If your dog starts to jump or wiggle around, stop just outside of their reach. Wait for the sit and mark and reward that behavior! Then release with “okay.” It can take about three or four times before your dog will automatically sit when you approach.
Time to add the training cue word, “SIT!” Walk away from dog and re-approach. When they sit, say “sit,” and mark/reward that behavior. Then release with “okay” and try it again!
Once you have sit on cue, change your position often. Ask for your dog to sit while you are sitting, standing, kneeling, bending over, carrying something, eating food, or holding something like a toy or a leash. Your dog will learn to think out what you want – even if there are distractions.
3. Go to Your Mat
The “go to your mat” training cue is the foundation to stay, polite greetings, table manners, and relaxed alone time in a pen or crate. By teaching the mat behavior, you are instilling self-control and calm behavior. This is a great shaping exercise!
Your mat can be anything like a towel, blanket, or floor rug. First, we need your dog to be interested in going to the desired location. Have your clicker and treats ready in one hand and your mat in the other. Place your mat on the floor in front of your dog. When he goes to investigate by sniffing or stepping on it, click and treat your dog!
Instead of handing your dog the treat, throw the treat reward on the mat to make the mat even more important. Every move towards the mat and on the mat should be rewarded with a click and a thrown treat to start.
After your dog gets the hang of running towards the mat, you’ll move on to the next behavior. You will still click and treat the initial movement to the mat, but now wait for something more.
If your dog sits on the mat feel free to click and treat that behavior, but do not click and treat a sit on the mat more than once. Remember, we want a down!
Look down at the mat, not your dog, so that your dog understands that it has something to do with the mat. You can even bend down a little to encourage him or her to offer a down.
Once your dog lays down, reward your dog repeatedly so that he or she knows that this is the behavior you were looking for! Release your dog and start again. Once your dog is trotting to the mat and laying down, add the cue “go to your mat!”
4. Hand Touch
Dogs respond to our body language much better than they do to our verbal commands, so teaching the “touch” cue can help them learn a myriad of things! “Touch” can be used to help your dog get into a “heel” position, loose leash walk, introduce a nervous dog to a stranger, help with sharp puppy teeth, teach tricks, etc. The list goes on and on!
To begin, hold out your left hand, palm facing your dog, close to your dog’s nose. Curiosity will take over and your dog will sniff your hand. Click using your right hand, and give your dog the treat using the same hand they touched.
Put your hand behind your back and get ready to try again. Offer your hand again and click as soon as he or she sniffs, touches, or licks your hand. and put your hand back behind your back. Do not keep your hand present as if begging for him to touch it. If he doesn’t get it, remove your hand, hide it behind your back, and then present it again.
Some dogs get this during the first session. Some dogs will take several training sessions before they understand. Your goal is to get 10 hand touches in 40 seconds!
5. Silly Dog Tricks
Find out what your dog naturally offers and build on it! Puppies are so active and creative. Reward your puppy’s efforts and you can channel their energy versus suppressing it. You can teach High Five, Spin or the favorite in our house, “100 things to do with an ice chest!”